In Italian salads, arugula is often combined with radicchio and paler lettuces. In the mesclun salads of Provence, arugula is one of the zestier greens mixed with baby lettuces and herbs. In California, baby arugula is often mixed with other baby greens.
Arugula also is used as a sandwich filling, and whole arugula leaves make a tasty last minute addition to potato and lentil soups.
The taste of arugula has been described as nutty, tangy, peppery, and mustard sharp. That’s because as arugula matures its taste grows hotter. Mature arugula should be used with discretion.
Late summer into autumn is the time to find fresh arugula at the farm market. You might find it under a few of its other names: garden rocket, rocket salad, rucchetta, rughetta, rucola (the Italian name), and roquette (the French name).
The deep green arugula leaf is slender, elongated—to about 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) long– and multi-lobed; it can ressemble an oak or dandelion leaf at varying stages of maturity.
Arugula seed can be sown from spring to summer and is ready for harvest in four to five weeks. It grows just about anywhere but prefers moist, fertile soil. Since it grows well under cover, a harvest need never be far off.
Young arugula leaves—particularly those grown in a greenhouse with heavy irrigation—will be quite mild tasting. The longer arugula matures and soaks up the summer sun, the more tangy it becomes. Late-season arugula can rival the hotttest mutard; late summer arugula in Britain got the name “rocket salad” because the taste was nothing less than explosive.
Arugula is native to the Mediterranean region and Eastern Asia and has been in cultivation since ancient Roman times. Arugula was introduced to North America by Italian settlers.
Choose. Select arugula that is crisp and bright green. Choose leaves that are young and tender, harvested before the plant has bloomed. Avoid arugula that is limp or shows signs of yellowing or spotting. Avoid leaves that are slimy.
Store. Arugula can be loosely wrapped in a wet paper towel and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Wash just before using and dry thoroughly.
Serve. Arugula can be eaten raw or cooked. Use arugula as a seasoning in broths, salads, mayonnaise, sandwiches, potato salads, and pasta.
- For a taste of California cuisine: combine arugula, radicchio, diced red onion, chopped toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and a red wine vinaigrette.
- The leaves can be lightly boiled or steamed and added to stir-fries or sautéed in olive oil and tossed with pasta.
- Arugula flowers are edible and can be used to garnish salads.
- Thoroughly wash arugula before using to remove grit or sand from the folds of the leaves.
Flavor partners. Arugula has a flavor affinity for beets, goat cheese, mozzarella, nuts, olives, pancetta, pasta, roasted peppers, tomatoes, and vinaigrette.
Nutrition. Arugula is rich in iron and vitamins A and C.
The botanical name for arugula is Eruca sativa.